COVID19 update, August 16, 2020: insights on superspreading; exodus from dense urban centers; mask mandates on Zoom calls [satire-proof]; politicization of academia and science.

(1) (H/t: Keith Clinton): Computer model offers insights on COVID-19 super-spreading

As the number of COVID-19 cases in the United States streaks toward 5 million, it may surprise you to learn that 80% of those who test positive for the disease never infect anyone else with the virus.

Instead, new research suggests the disease weaves its way, rapidly, into the population because of a confluence of events. They are largely driven by contact with people who happen, briefly, to be highly contagious in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

It is a phenomenon known as super-spreading, and experts at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center are using complex computer simulations of viral transmission among individuals to gain a better understanding of how this virus, SARS-CoV-2, with an unknowing assist from super-spreaders, manages to wreak so much havoc in populations.

In research newly posted in medRxiv, a team led by Fred Hutch postdoctoral scientist Dr. Ashish Goyal, infectious diseases physician Dr. Joshua T. Schiffer and epidemiologist Dr. Bryan T. Mayer reports some surprising insights using a computer model that compares the behavior of COVID-19 with influenza.

Read the whole thing.

(2) Large cities hardest hit. I already linked to the Telegraph’s report on London earlier. Now:

* James Altucher: NYC always bounces back — but won’t this time 

* San Francisco exodus is real, and historic, report shows

* Big city exodus

Yes, there’s crime, and insane law (non-)enforcement decisions that contribute — but these are much less of a factor in the exodus from London. Last time I was in NYC and heard rents (residential and office) in midtown Manhattan, and later when I found out that San Francisco was even less affordable, I remember thinking of Stein’s Law: “that which cannot go on forever won’t”. The guy writing about NYC hits the nail on the head: we’ve had a 5-month “proof of concept” to show that yes, Virginia, you can do most financial, publishing sector,… jobs just fine from your spare bedroom in Podunk, North Florida, as long as you have high-speed internet. (And, depending where you are relative to hurricane alleys, a reliable backup power supply.) Were I (G-d forbid) running a magazine or a publishing company, I’d have moved long ago to more affordable quarters where what I could afford to pay my staff would pay the bills a lot better.

Of course, lots of prime jobs leaving the big city means an entire (precarious) ecosystem of support jobs dies. Another ecosystem will benefit: people working from home will likely invest in their home office spaces, or otherwise gussy up the residence they now spend day and night in.

* and good to know that US colleges have their priorities straight. (NOT) 

(3) Miscellaneous updates:

*Bob Zubrin to FDA: get out of the way

* (H/t: littleoldlady): Glenn Beaton tells of his experiences participating in the Pfizer vaccine trial . 

* the Babylon Bee can officially retire in 2020: no satire can compete with reality for sheer absurdity. Case in point:

* (H/t: Jeff Duntemann). An article in The Tablet by neuropsychiatrist and bestselling popular science author Norman Doidge about how politicization has now crept into even biomedical research. As far as I am concerned, the jury is still out on hydroxychloroquine, but the whole “cannot work because Orange Man Bad” makes me sad for what my profession is turning into. (Yes, I am a scientist by day, certifiably mad according to some.) There is nothing I can add to the words of Henri Poincaré, so I shall quote them once again in a slightly different translation:

Thought must never submit

neither to a dogma,

nor to a political party,

nor to a passion,

nor to a special interest,

nor to a preconceived idea,

nor to anything other than the facts themselves —

because when thought submits, it ceases to be.

—Henri Poincaré, Le libre examen en matière scientifique (1909), my translation of: “La pensée ne doit jamais se soumettre, ni a un dogme, ni a un parti, ni à une passion, ni à un intérêt, ni à une idée préconçue, ni à quoique ce soit, si ce n’est aux faits eux-mêmes, parce que, pour elle, se soumettre, ce serait cesser d’être.

2 thoughts on “COVID19 update, August 16, 2020: insights on superspreading; exodus from dense urban centers; mask mandates on Zoom calls [satire-proof]; politicization of academia and science.

  1. Another ecosystem will benefit: people working from home will likely invest in their home office spaces, or otherwise gussy up the residence they now spend day and night in.

    We’ve now gotten three new computers and a computer chair, since the “work mostly from home” stuff started.

    Computers were more because there was a sudden glut as demand and supply see-sawed, since you can refurb at home.

  2. There was a time early in the ND oil boom when rents in western ND, particularly Williston and Watford City, rivaled or even exceeded those in San Francisco. But everyone knew it wouldn’t last as building caught up and eventually another bust came along. Rents are still comparatively high, but not the ridiculousness of 2010.

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